Scientology has been in the news lately because of a recent documentary about the “religion” called Going Clear, which I did watch. It is an exposé of the Church of Scientology.
I won’t go into the details of Scientology here; and I am certainly no expert. Here is what I know; much of it I have forgotten because this story happened in the ’70s.
Scientology was founded in the ’50s by L. Ron Hubbard, who was a science fiction writer. He has since passed on, and the religion is now led by someone else. I believe that he became quite paranoid in his later years and that he lived on a boat. Because it is a “religion,” the Church pays no taxes. It also makes oodles of money. The basic tenet, as far as I know, is that when something bad happens to you, your reactive mind records it in detail and it comes back to haunt you and ruin your life. These records are called engrams. Getting rid of the engrams, or “getting clear” is the process Scientologists go through to become happy humans. Hubbard wrote a book called Dianetics, which explains all this in detail. I read the book in the ‘7os when I had my encounter with Scientology. The book is actually very interesting, and I would recommend reading it. But enough of this. Let me tell you about my encounter with Scientology.
It was the ’70s, and people were experimenting with everything: Drugs, EST, Reverend Moon and his Moonies, the Hari Krishnas . . . and Scientology which lives on in tall, fancy buildings. I was in college majoring in publications, which at the time was print, rather than online.
I was taking a course called Article Writing, taught by Alden Poole, who was a reporter for the Boston Herald, a daily newspaper. The course involved writing an article for publication (possibly) in the Herald. Because this happened decades ago, I don’t promise to remember everything or even to remember accurately. But, as I recall, this is how it went down . . .
I really don’t recall why I chose to write my article about Scientology. I don’t think I read Dianetics until I was writing the article, so it wasn’t the book that got me interested. I imagine it was just the fact that I was in Boston and whenever I walked through Kenmore Square, the Scientologists were there with the other groups handing out pamphlets. And there was a big Church of Scientology building nearby.
So I did what every good journalist does: I went to the Church of Scientology building to see whom I could interview about this religion. I remember very little. I do remember talking to an older man, rather sinister looking, as I recall, with a beard and dark, piercing eyes. I believe he is the one who had me sign a contract basically saying I wouldn’t talk trash about them. Of course I signed it. (RED flag????) Then I interviewed a young man who made Scientology sound really good. No, I didn’t turn over any money. I remember that he had blue eyes that were glazed, as if he were in a Scientology trance. All the Scientologists I saw looked like that. And although he smiled, the smile didn’t reach his eyes.
Armed with my information, I retreated to my dorm room—or the library—or wherever it was I did my writing, and came up with what I thought was one heck of an article. I handed it in to Professor Poole, one step closer to becoming a Scientologist myself.
I remember what Professor Poole said to me after he had read my article: “Now, go dig up the dirt.” So I did.
I went to the library where I found out that Scientology had taken thousands upon thousands of dollars from people who could ill afford it. I read that the government had confiscated their “e-machines,” which were the devices used to clear engrams from people. I rewrote the article with another side included. But then there was that paper I had signed.
Professor Poole read my new article. “Very good. You found the dirt. However, now, of course, the article is libelous and we would have a big lawsuit on our hands if we printed it.” But now that I think back: Is it libelous if it is true?
Anyhow, I never became a Scientologist. The “dirt” I discovered pretty much turned me off on the topic, where my position remains today. Scientology is obviously still around, still tax exempt, still very wealthy, more famous than ever because of the Hollywood names that ascribe to it. But it has actually lost many, many members since the glory days. The dirt has leaked out and has been documented in Going Clear—and it isn’t pretty.
FREE on Kindle (or with a Kindle app) this Monday through Wednesday, June 29 through July 1:
Please share this post with your social media friends! Thank you! 😆